Flying objects over North American territories spark concern


Matthew Gardner, Staff Writer

On Saturday, Feb. 4, the U.S. military shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon Saturday morning as it approached the Atlantic coast. At about 2:39 p.m. EST, an F-22 fighter jet fired a missile at the balloon, puncturing it while it was about six nautical miles off the coast near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina after it traversed sensitive military sites across North America.

A similar incident happened where an unidentified object was shot down by the U.S. airforce, on Sunday, Feb. 12, in Lake Huron, Canada.

China insisted the flyover was an accident involving a civilian aircraft and threatened repercussions, but the presence of the balloon dealt a severe blow to the already strained U.S.-Chinese relations that have been in a downward spiral for years. The U.S. Secretary of State, Blinken, canceled a meeting with Chinese officials that would take place later this year.

The spectacle had Americans looking to the skies all week, wondering whether the mysterious balloon had floated over them.

The debris landed in 47 feet of water and spread over roughly seven miles, and the recovery operation included several ships. 

U.S. defense and military officials said the balloon entered the U.S. air defense zone north of the Aleutian Islands on Jan. 28 and moved over land across Alaska and then into Canadian airspace in the Northwest Territories on Monday. It crossed back into U.S. territory over northern Idaho on Tuesday.

The Americans were able to collect intelligence on the balloon as it flew over the U.S., giving them several days to analyze it and learn how it moved and what it was capable of surveilling. They concluded that the technology on the balloon only gave the Chinese intelligence obtainable from satellites. 

China has claimed that the balloon was merely a weather research “airship.” The Pentagon rejected that and China’s contention that it was not being used for surveillance and had limited navigational ability.

This is not the first time Chinese spy balloons have crossed into U.S. airspace in recent years. At least three times during the Trump administration and four known times during Biden’s presidency.

The question is, what will happen in the coming weeks with Chinese and American relations?